Adolescent urgency

The Time is Now (La Boite Theatre)

La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre

May 24 – June 5

“Real teenagers with real conviction … advocate for a better future” is how the marketing material for La Boite Theatre’s “The Time Is Now” is promoted. Its content is accordingly an expected socially-conscious examination of contemporary life through the urgency of young person’s lens… with a bit of Brechtian technique in its execution.

‘If you only had two minutes, what would you want to tell the rest of the world?’ we are asked at the outset of the work, which has been co-created by Ari Palani, Aleea Monsour and David Burton with La Boite’s Young Artist Company. From this, the setup of the show, is immediately clear as the young people gather in a citizen’s assembly or sorts where they are given this opportunity. The framework in which each of their two minutes of honest address around feelings of powerless when it comes to choice, is interesting in its shape, as each member of the often-depoliticised generational group proposes their suggestions for inclusions in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, written before they were born and without consultation with any children.

The performers telling the audience how it is through their eyes (Omalkire Akil Ahmed, Huda Akhlaki, Jessica Boyd, Joe Cranitch, Sophia Ferreira da Luz, Diali Kemp, Rachel Kennedy, Zander Pynenburg, Carys Walsh and Fujia Sarah Xu) range from 12 to 18 years of age and represent a range of diverse cultures, backgrounds and political views, which adds depth to their discussions beyond the as-anticipated climate change outrage and alike. In particular, memorable moments come from Carys Walsh in articulate examination about the power of privilege and how every young person everywhere has the right to be listened to, as well as audience-favourite Omal’s tell of her journey from not feeling like she belonged to becoming a fierce Muslim queen.

Regardless of their particular focus, the young people all speak with conviction, so much so that, at times their words become lost in a rush of outpour or lapses in articulation and projection. And through the sometimes-contradictory ideas, there is an undeniable passion at the core of their big, revolutionary dreams and want for a world that is kind. Indeed, their passion and energy in telling of their frustrations, fears and vulnerabilities, cannot be denied. Michael Berkman – Greens MP for Maiwar (as the show’s promised adult cameo appearance on Opening Night) assures them of this towards to show’s conclusion.

This inclusion of an adult voice (different for each performance) to almost top and tail the 70-minute work is just one of the many ways in which the show is made more dynamic than might be suggested by its premise. There script is peppered with light-hearted commentary around ice-cream and the importance of immaturity alongside responsibility, and recall of silly dreams alongside the scary ones. Transitions of dance and structured movement also work well to keep things pacing along between each performer’s solo sections.

The strength of “The Time Is Now” as a contemporary verbatim theatre work is ultimately, however, its provision of a platform for young people to share their often dismissed or disregarded voices on political and social issues, as discussions of domestic violence, harassment, suicide, and mental health feature alongside pleas for the disenfranchised and deconstruction of the impacts of bullying and social media in their lives. And in what is La Boite’s first ever all-teenage mainstage cast, there is a clear resonate message from across its topics about adults not taking responsibility for or trying to fix things, especially in one of the most interesting segments in which the performers all rush forth to answer the question of what they want adults to know. And while some may fear for teens growing up in a pressured, screen-based world, “The Time Is Now” offers not only empowerment, but illustration of how there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the generation that has so much at the forefront of their hearts and minds.

Photos c/o – Markus Ravik

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